John-Randel Vermaak’s Upcycled 1989 Colnago Master

Ernesto Colnago’s steel-frame bikes are legendary, and none more so than the Master, which has been in continuous production since the early 1980s.


WORDS AND IMAGES BY JON MINSTER |

Ernesto Colnago’s steel-frame bikes are legendary, and none more so than the Master, which has been in continuous production since the early 1980s. When Cape Town psychiatrist John-Randel Vermaak discovered an old Master frame, he decided to give it new life with new parts, creating a modern classic.

He didn’t want the bike to hide in his garage. This Italian stallion is a workhorse: JR spends weekends exploring the roads of the Cape Peninsula, and often commutes to work – sometimes taking detours through green belts and along gravel tracks.

The frame

The frame is painted in the colours of the 1989 Panasonic-Isostar team. That year, Belgian racer Jean-Marie Wampers was the surprise winner of the Paris-Roubaix.

It’s constructed from star-shaped Columbus Nivacrom ‘Gilco’ tubing, which was designed for Colnago by Antonio Colombo at Columbus; along with Antonio’s brother Gilberto Colombo, who made race-car chassis.

Like any top-quality steel frame, this Master is lightweight but forgiving, racy but comfortable, and there are beautiful pantographs on the lugs, dropouts, fork crown and bottom bracket shell. It’s a work of art.

Still, there are blemishes; but JR isn’t in a rush to have the paintwork professionally restored. Dents and scratches are part of the magic of an old frame. They give it pedigree.

C is for Campagnolo

Colnago, Columbus, Campagnolo: the Holy Trinity. When JR went looking for a modern groupset, Campag was the only option. He decided on Potenza, which is roughly equivalent to Shimano Ultegra. Like Ultegra, it strikes the right balance between performance and durability (and price).

It’s uncanny how well the parts suit the bike. Despite the shifters, crankset, brakes and derailleur being nearly three decades newer than the frame, nothing looks odd or out of place.

A Ritchey seatpost, Cinelli bar and stainless-steel Crane bell complete the picture.

The wheel has come full circle

The latest endurance bikes all have clearance for wider tyres. It’s the en vogue trend in road cycling. But they were doing it in 1989!

JR is riding 28c Panaracer Gravel Kings on Campagnolo Zonda wheels. The aluminium hoops are by no means the lightest or stiffest in the Campag range, but they look the part and they’re durable enough for long rides and commuting, and the occasional dirt-road detour.

 

The Gravel Kings are supple, all-purpose tyres with a file-like tread that rolls smoothly on tar but offers good grip when things get wet or rough.

Thanks to a thoughtful rebuild, JR has ensured that this Colnago Master will spend many more happy days in the sunshine.

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